Friday, May 15, 2015

What to Do With All of These Thoughts?

(repost from August 2012)

It’s easy to say that when meditating one should focus on the breath and release thoughts as they arise, but it’s incredibly difficult to do.  I’ve been a bit hypomanic lately, and ideas are flying through my head.  Concentration and attention are very difficult.  Acknowledging thoughts and letting them go is hard enough on a good day.  What do I do now?

During mindfulness meditation you keep your attention on your breath, but you want to be fully aware in this moment.  So you still take note of sounds and smells, aches and pains, all that makes up the present moment.  When thoughts arise the instructions are to notice them, let them go, and return to the breath.  But to just blot out thoughts without paying attention to them would not be very mindful at all.  Don’t ignore your thoughts, work with them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Responsibility and Compliance

Here's my first ever post.  It still makes sense to me.  Please comment.

One of the most difficult challenges to overcome when dealing with a mental illness is the temptation of the excuse.  With a psychiatric diagnosis comes an excuse for everything.  Any bad behavior, lack of motivation, or failure can be passed off as a symptom or the result of an episode.  The excuse is always available.  Don't take it.

No one's asking you to take responsibility for having a mental illness.  That's not your fault.  But you have to take responsibility for your actions.  Sure, unexpected things happen as a result of a serious mental illness, but most of our behavior is within our control, or at least our influence.  And the behavior that most influences our wellness is compliance.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Begin Meditating

I've been making an effort to return to the basics of meditation lately.  Here's a repost that offers some basic instructions on the foundation of many meditation methods - following the breath.

Meditation is quite different from sitting there doing nothing, thinking nothing.  It is instead a focused attention on one’s present experience.  A chance to minimize the distractions that pull one away from the present. Pleasant events are often spoiled by comparison to other good experiences or worry that this wonder may soon end.  Difficult experiences are often tempered by a desire for escape and the fantasy of being somewhere else doing something else.  The mind will wander all over the place and our present experience, good or bad, may be missed.

So meditation becomes a practice.  A practice to remain here, in the present moment, fully aware.  It is something that must be practiced to achieve benefit, and the practice, though simple, can be extremely challenging.  But the benefits, as described in other posts and in countless others’ experience, are worth it.

So how does one begin?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When Mindfulness Risks Becoming Mindlessness

Repost From March 2013

Mindfulness meditation has been unequaled in helping me navigate the stressors that can rob me of the beauty of each moment.  It has helped me manage a serious mental illness, and it has helped me confront major and minor roadblocks that threaten to derail all of my plans.  In fact, I believe that anyone can benefit from this practice. And therein lies the problem.  Mindfulness should be about fully experiencing the present moment — taking in all that is around us non-judgmentally, and sharing empathy for the plight of others we encounter. But it threatens to become an individual pursuit.

Time spent in meditation, relaxation, and contemplation can devolve into self-absorption. The meditator risks becoming detached from his own experience, and the experience of those close to him. One can see meditation as a panacea for all ills, and resist putting in the hard work required to overcome obstacles and to face adversity.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Simple Practice

Repost from October 2013

I wanted to return to an earlier post and present again a simple meditation technique that anyone can practice.  It’s called the Twenty Breaths Practice.  It only takes a few minutes, can be performed almost anywhere, and can yield great stress relief.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Downside to Mindfulness

Repost from January 2014

I write so much about the benefits of mindfulness that I have to fess up when I come across a study that reveals negative effects.  This hasn’t been too taxing because there are so few resources painting mindfulness as having any deleterious effects at all.  But recent research out of Georgetown University does just that.

It turns out that mindfulness can inhibit implicit learning and implicit memory.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Stepping Up

Repost from December 2012

It’s impossible to write a blog about mental illness without confronting the violence that has descended on this country all too often.  Too many innocent victims have fallen at the hands of too many offenders to set the issue aside.  My heart bleeds for the victims lost and the loved ones remaining.  Nothing written can take away the pain of the survivors.  But a call to action may help to prevent such crimes from continuing.